I was at a mall on Friday. It is an interesting place to be in, if not for shopping, just observing people.
As I was ogling at a delicious designer pair of shoes priced way beyond my need more than capacity I heard a voice behind me. I swirled around to see a little boy smiling up at me completely oblivious to the fact that he had no idea who I was!!! I wondered why and he then pointed out at my bag, which had a “Peter Pan” key chain hanging from one of its zips. I love hanging trinkets from my bag. I smiled benevolently remembering my own kids at that age and their curiosity and desire to own these little toys, and knelt down to pull it off and give it to him. The smile I got was enough reward in itself. By this time, the mother had walked up to him. Without preamble she slapped the kid and snatched the keychain out of his hand and handed it to me looking rather apologetic. No questions no answers no explanations. She had made up her mind and delivered the verdict. The proud young man fought tears with an unmistakable pout and continued to look defiantly at her. Did he feel robbed, hurt or insulted, I wondered and felt a pang of guilt engulf me as I was as much to blame for his discomfort as was his insensitive mother.
To save him from any more shame, I walked away, letting the child salvage whatever little dignity he had left my mind wondering if I would have done the exact same thing in a bid to teach the child a valuable lesson, of not accepting gifts from strangers. As I walked along I came across another mother son pair. In stark contrast I saw a mother cajoling a child that was throwing a tantrum right in the middle of the shop. Why was she bothering? I thought. This kid was clearly not open to discussion! Then why bother talking to the child? Ignore him, walk away, I wanted to tell her. There is a time and space for discussions and this certainly was not one of them!!!!
And my mind once again went back to the eternal question of what makes a good parent? A question that has always haunted me and the answer elusive as always!!! The first woman did what she thought was right in bringing up a child. “You do not accept gifts from a stranger!” that is a cardinal rule you teach children as they grow up. But what else was she teaching him? Snatching is ok? Being rude is OK, especially if you have authority? But weren’t we always taught that you spare the rod and spoil the child? Where must we draw the line? What dictates good parenting? Expecting good behavior is right isn’t it? And asking, as we have been taught is not good behavior!!! Then again, why can’t we encourage a child’s free spirit? When are we ever going to learn that life and not we is the ultimate teacher? All we need to do is give them a loving and caring home? If I do feel this way then why did I want to spank the mother who was cajoling the child out of his tantrum. Wasn’t she just giving him love? How much love is enough? When do you draw the line?
To me, being a parent is the ultimate cosmic responsibility. We create them, surely then it should be our selfless duty to help them ease into the world with as much self-respect as respect for others, with as much love for the world as they have for themselves. No doubt bringing up a child was one of the most difficult things I have done and I am loathe to judge another parent for what they do. But I did find myself mentally admonishing the first mother for her lack of sensitivity and the second one for her lack of knowledge of the fact that she had no control! Why the hell can’t children come with user guides!!!